DOVER-FOXCROFT — When 15-year old Raven Nally complained of bone pain several years ago, her family attributed it to “growing pains” or a sports injury.
“I was playing soccer then,” said Raven.
X-rays were taken because the pain got worse; then the doctor told the Nally family the results weren’t good.
According to Kelly Nally, the physician saw a growth on her daughter’s bone. She said that Raven was later diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer that affects mostly children and adolescents. She also said that Raven went through 50 weeks of chemotherapy at Eastern Maine Medical Center, which was difficult. However, Raven’s treatments ended in May 2013, and Raven is elated that she has been diagnosed as “cancer free.”
Raven’s school and community offered a lot of support during her illness.
“They held fundraisers to help cover the cost of transportation,” said Raven.
The Nallys traveled to EMMC six days a week for chemotherapy. Two very emotional experiences for Raven and her family were being confronted with the fact that not every child survived like Raven did and also losing her hair.
“It’s pretty tough to lose your hair,” said Raven, who coped by wearing many different kinds of hats.
“I must have about 50 hats,” she said.
When she felt discouraged, Raven said it helped knowing that others had not given up hope. She appreciated the support of her friends, family, community and medical care from EMMC staff during her battle with cancer.
“Even when you don’t feel hopeful, the support of your family and friends and community will help give you hope,” she said.
EMMC pediatric hematologist-oncologist Dr. Sam Lew said that childhood cancer is rare, compared to other cancers; approximately 12,000 childhood cancers are diagnosed in the United States annually. National Cancer Institute statistics show that Maine’s childhood cancer incidence rate (number of childhood cancer cases per 100,000 children) is higher than the national rate. Lew said the cause of many childhood cancers is unknown.
An association between toxic chemicals in drinking water and reporting of childhood cancers has been questioned in some states. A February 2014 NBC News report claimed that a study recently confirmed that toxic chemicals in water at Camp Lejeune, N.C., seriously affected military personnel and their families.
The National Cancer Institute has reported that pooled results of multiple studies showed increased risk of childhood leukemia among children exposed to electromagnetic field (EMF) levels above 4 mG while living close to high voltage power lines. Among the pooled studies, Linet et al (1997) reported a fourfold increase in the number of American children with childhood leukemia when exposed to EMF levels that high. The exact mechanism by which EMF might cause cancer is being investigated.
Recent NCI statistics reveal that not only is Maine’s childhood cancer incidence rate higher than the national rate, but Maine’s age-adjusted cancer incidence rate for all cancers combined is also higher. The highest incidence rate was reported in Penobscot County. Hampden officials recently requested investigation of multiple cancer cases near a closed landfill where an energy generating station is now located.
Dr. Thomas Openshaw, head of clinical research at EMMC Cancer Care, said that radon and arsenic in water may contribute to Maine’s cancer incidence rate. He advised that many cancers are related to lifestyle choices. He said that smoking cessation, decreased alcohol intake, a healthy diet with decreased consumption of red meat, and maintenance of ideal body weight “would greatly decrease the cancer incidence rate in Maine.”